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Arizona Cardinals After Dark: A tale of two throws from Carson Palmer

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Palmer was out of time and telegraphed his throw and was picked by the rookie Colts safety.

Arizona Cardinals v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

When the game was all over it was just a blip on an otherwise mediocre offensive day, but there was potential for a bigger day, instead of points before the half, with 1:22 left and at their 26, Palmer and the offense had a chance to tie or at least cut into their 10-3 deficit.

The Setup

Carson Palmer has been in the NFL long enough, he should recognize this cover one play. With the way the defense is set up, his options really are going to either be his two outside routes, Nelson on a go or Jaron brown on a dig, or Larry Fitzgerald on the out route, designated by the star.

The problem, Margus Hunt, triangle, absolutely destroys Evan Boehm, meaning that Palmer starts his read with Nelson and because of the pressure, is unable to make the read to the other side of the field.

This is two seconds into Palmer’s drop back, he is done, the play is over, he has to throw the ball.

Here is the problem...

This is right after the snap. Malik Hooker has committed to going to the defensive right, he knows he has to get over there, as soon as Palmer sees this, he should have made the adjustment and gotten to the offensive right side of the play. As soon as Hooker opens his hips, Palmer has to abort that attempt to that side.

If Palmer wants to force that throw, this was the first down play by the way, he has to get the ball away from the safety, the problem is, the Colts in a Cover 1 are playing with outside leverage, so Nelson can’t release to the sideline, he is being forced to the hash. Again, this is something a quarterback should know, especially at Palmer’s age.

That is where Palmer put the ball (star), Nelson released inside, hard to tell but the Colts CB has outside leverage, and the Colts won the play from the snap. But look at the bottom of the screen, Fitz has already won his route. He has his man turned to cover inside and he’s running an out. Palmer determined where he was going to throw the ball from pre-snap, but he was baited by the rookie to try and make the throw and Hooker made an easy play on the ball.

Compare that to later in the day when Palmer got the deep touchdown to J.J. Nelson.

The Setup

Look at the Colts defense on this play. The Cardinals are in 12 personnel: One running back, two tight ends and two wide receivers. It gets the Colts to play tight, likely because on this drive the Cardinals had successfully run the ball on first and second down to start the drive. They were waiting for a run.

Even if they were not fooled by the Cardinals play action:

Both the corner and safety freeze just long enough to let J.J. Nelson get up to full speed, which means lights out for the secondary, even with an 11 year cushion for the safety, Matthias Farley.

Palmer released the ball when Nelson was at the 25 and about seven yards outside the hash, he knows the only guy who can make the play is the corner who has outside leverage.

On the bottom we see the staple flood concept of Arians offense, with three targets about ten yards apart each, occupying the rest of the secondary. Farley, the safety on the hashes at the 25, is beat by this point if Palmer gets the ball down the hashes and gets enough on it.

Palmer released the ball at his own 47...

Nelson makes the catch at the Colts 3 yard line. You can see the safety is beat by 4-5 yards, and the corner having outside leverage this time worked against the Colts.

The safety is the reason this play worked, while the safety is the reason the first play didn’t.

When you have center field, the main rule is, no one gets behind you.

Nelson was at the 25 outside of the hash by about seven yards and was to the spot within 3 seconds... Oh, and Palmer under threw him, as Nelson had to slow down. If Palmer gets it to the end zone, it is an even easier play. But, the dramatics aren’t as good.

A tale of two halves... A tale of two throws...